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Press Clipping: Two councils exist despite empty seats, redundancies
This article in the Beacon at Florida International University discusses research ASGA conducted regarding having two separate student body presidents for the Modique and Biscayne Bay campuses.

Seemingly since the day the Student Government Association was disbanded in 1991 by then University President Modesto A. Maidique, there have been members yearning to put it back together again.

Less than four years ago, then SGC-MMC vice president Arthur “AJ” Meyer proposed to form a committee to re-evaluate SGA in order to search for the best system possible, according to an article in the Nov. 08, 2007 issue of The Beacon.

The American Student Government Association compiled a report, sent to Meyer on March 19, 2009, that provided three separate opinions to the question: Should there be a single Student Body President serving both the Biscayne Bay Campus and [MMC]?

One report began by saying, “This is easily answered in a single word: ‘No.’” The other two opinions expressed the same sentiment.

But while SGA remains governed by separate councils, the questionable logistics of operating with two councils keep the debate alive.

Sholom Neistein, who served as SGC-BBC president for the 2009-2010 academic year, said the theoretical merger will never happen.

“Nobody’s in favor of it. I mean, I’m not going to say nobody because MMC is always in favor of it,” Neistein said. “But Dr. [Rosa] Jones [vice president of student affairs] is not going to let it happen.”

Neistein said Jones would have the final decision on the matter and that she’d refuse a merger because when the councils were originally combined, BBC was unfairly represented.

As of press time Jones did not respond to calls and emails to her office.

“There was a lack of equity on this campus, there was no parity whatsoever,” Neistein said. “All the resources went to [MMC]. So when all the resources are pumped into one locale, and 20 percent of the population resides here, it’s not fair.”

Craig Cunningham, director of student affairs, agrees with the results of the report, and said that BBC deserves its own student government that provides needed programs, services, and funding.

The Student Government Council at Modesto Maidique Campus is constitutionally required to have 32 senators, but currently has three vacancies. The council at Biscayne Bay Campus is required to have 11 less senators than MMC, yet has three times as many vacancies.

In order to make quorum, the number of members required for a formal senate or general meeting, attendance of senators is determined by 50 percent plus one.

With SGC-BBC holding 11 senators, this means that only six senators are required to be in a meeting that could potentially vote on decisions that affect the entire BBC population.

It also logically means that fewer bodies are available to accomplish tasks, and those present assume greater responsibilities, while making nearly the same amount as SGC-MMC officials.

SGC-MMC has six associate justices. At the beginning of the spring semester, SGC-BBC has no associate justices and vacancies in four created positions: internship coordinator, director of sustainability, director of community relations and outreach, and director of external relations.

Tiffany Huertas, SGC-BBC press secretary, said the council consists of 43 positions, but 13 spots remain open. Sixty-two positions are listed on SGC-MMC’s website for executive, legislative, and judicial branches; out of those 62, four spots are vacant.

As of Feb. 18, the University’s Office of Planning and Institutional Research said the enrollment for MMC was 32,621, while the enrollment for BBC was 7,081. Students registered for classes on both campuses are counted in each campuses data.

Therefore, if both councils were filled to capacity and the Feb. 18 enrollment data were used, it could be concluded that one SGC-BBC official would represent 165 students, and an SGC-MMC official would represent 526 students.

Dean Williams, SGC-MMC executive assistant to the president, said MMC senators make $800 yearly. Shana Kaplan, SGC-BBC comptroller, said BBC senators have an annual salary of $850.

A former SGC-BBC member described complications he faced with working on a small council.

During Oehleo Higgs’ time as press secretary, he tried to juggle all aspects of the press while simultaneously helping other cabinet members with whatever was needed.

“At MMC, you have one person doing each thing: a marketing person, someone for press, a webmaster,” Higgs said. “But one person doing it all is a very heavy load.”

Higgs said he attempted to create a new SGC-BBC website, but even after creating content and soliciting biographies from members, it was still impossible to get it completed in one semester.

While Jervaris “Jey” Floyd, hospitality senator, said having a smaller council makes sense because BBC is smaller campus, he is well aware of the difficulties it presents.

“We’re trying to put people in committees and people are either on a committee or a chair of one, so we’re pulling hairs with the ones we have,” Floyd said. “So we need to look at that and say, ‘Okay, everybody should go grab somebody, bring them in, get them up to speed and then we’ll have people to choose from.’”

The strain of a small council serving over 7000 students is the focal point of a longtime debate: merging SGA’s two governing councils into one.

Higgs greeted the idea with skepticism.

“From being on the inside of SGA, I don’t think MMC knows the vibe or atmosphere of the students [at BBC]. Unless there’s a university-wide voting towards BBC students, I don’t know how it would work,” Higgs said.

As of press time, Rafael Zapata, SGC-BBC advisor was unavailable for comment.

While many at BBC agreed there could never be one council, some could at least offer solutions.

Floyd said that the senate is looking into amending article four of the SGA constitution, which says to qualify for SGA, one must be registered for no less than 50 percent of classes at the campus he or she represents.

If it were amended, a student who has less than half of their classes at BBC could still qualify for to be a part of SGC-BBC, thereby potentially increasing the council size.

Neistein’s suggestion was a bit more complex.

“The only way I would see one council working is if: one, the president would have a basis on both campuses, meaning the president would be given a gas and cell phone stipend to commute to both campuses,” Neistein said.

The second requirement: two offices, two vice presidents, and for this president to show his or her presence at each campus a minimum of twice a week.

“You have to realize, if there’s going to be one council, it’s always going to be a president from [MMC],” Neistein said “That’s just the way it is.”

Still, council members are optimistic about their abilities in a small council.

“It just means we have to be on our Ps and Qs and make sure we are together,” Floyd said.

Neistein agreed.

“You can have 50 able bodies on the council, and maybe 10 people doing the job, or you can have a 15-person close-knit group and do a remarkable job throughout the year,” Neinstein said.

Additional reporting by Vincent Fernandez.

Becca Griesemer works as a Beat Writer covering the Student Government Council at the Biscayne Bay Campus.

American Student Government Association  

The American Student Government Association will provide all Student Government leaders and advisors nationwide with networking, research, and information resources and will teach them how to become more effective, ethical, and influential leaders on their campuses. ASGA also will promote the advancement of SGs, conduct research as the nation’s only “SG Think Tank,” and advocate the importance of having a vibrant, autonomous Student Government organization at every institution in America.

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